The UFC falls under the category of “sports,” but since its television breakout a decade ago, the spectacle of the events has become great TV. Despite the dozens of crossover stars and ascendent champions the Ultimate Fighting Championship has produced, it’s entirely possible that the most recognizable face of the UFC is that of announcer Bruce Buffer. With his authoritative bellow intoning his signature catchphrase “It’s Time!” Buffer has turned the simple act of introducing fighters into top-shelf television. His history with the company runs deep, and he’s as much a fan as he is one of the company’s most high-profile employees.
His exposure has grown steadily since the UFC struck a deal with Fox to air major shows on free network television a few years ago. This Saturday, the UFC raids Chicago to present UFC on Fox 10: Henderson vs. Thomson, and next Saturday, UFC 169 adds to the excitement of Super Bowl weekend when it airs live on pay-per-view from Newark, New Jersey, just a few miles away from MetLife Stadium. EW caught up with Buffer (who is also a semi-professional poker player and game developer) to talk about his life in fighting and who newcomers should pay attention to this weekend.
Entertainment Weekly: You are referred to as “The Veteran Voice of the Octagon.” When did you actually get started announcing shows?
Bruce Buffer: I started in 1996, that was my first show—UFC 8. Then I did UFC 10. Then I guest starred on Friends, and right after that they asked me back for UFC 13. On the set of Friends, the then-owner of UFC and I had the discussion where I said, “Look, I’ve been waiting like a girl waiting on a date to the prom. I’m happy to do the shows, but I want to do every show because I want to do more than just be your announcer. I want to help build the sport with my media contacts. I love it, I believe in it, and let’s make a deal.” That was the best poker hand I ever played. I basically announced every show from UFC 13 on. I’ve missed three shows in the last 17 years.
What was it that drew you to the UFC in the first place?
I’ve been into martial arts since I was 12. I had black belts in a style called Tang Soo Do, and also I kickboxed for a number of years. I have fighting in my blood. My grandfather was the champion of the world in boxing in 1921 in the bantamweight and flyweight divisions, and I’ve just been involved in the fighting world my entire life. I have an appreciation for what the fighters go through and what it takes to be a fighter, and the fact that they put their blood, sweat and tears on the line every time they walk to the the cage. It’s the loneliest job in sports, in my opinion, and these guys and girls deserve praise and so much honor. I want to be able to give as much to them and to the fans as I can.
What do you see as the biggest difference between the live product and the TV product?
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